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Nov 20, 2014 7:05 PM

Where's the snow? Not in Alaska's largest city

The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) One week before Thanksgiving, much of the nation is digging out from snowstorms, but the ground is bare in Alaska's largest city.

Anchorage normally has nearly 17 inches of snowfall this time of year. Instead, it's seen less than 4 inches and that snow fell a month ago and melted in unseasonably warmer weather.

Without powder, local skiers are hitting the trails on roller skis or getting fit indoors. Some people are finding frozen lakes to skate on, even if it means leaving town. Others are celebrating.

A light rain fell this week, only to later freeze into a slick layer on roads. So far, however, Anchorage's high this month was 48 degrees on Nov. 10, instead of the norm of 29 degrees for that day, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Dixon.

The same system that is pushing frigid conditions from the north to the Lower 48 states is bringing warmer and drier conditions to Alaska's mainland from the south, Dixon said. It's sort of like trading places.

"It's not unprecedented by any means," Dixon said Thursday. "But it is unusual."

He said it should be winding down over the weekend and Anchorage temperatures should be back to equilibrium by the middle of next week. That means colder conditions but still no significant snow in the foreseeable forecast.

While waiting for snow, some children are playing games and exercising to work on skills they eventually will use in a program of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage.

Tamra Kornfield, program manager for the association, has seen that waiting pattern over the years as a lifelong Anchorage resident. There are winters when snow is late to arrive, and snow lovers look for other forms of recreation.

"I'll be glad when it's here," Kornfield said. "But I have been training myself not to push seasons, so to enjoy whatever season you're in."

Local high school cross-country ski teams are practicing by running and hitting school gyms and lifting weights, said Tim Helvey, activities principal for cross-country skiing for the Anchorage School District. But team members want snow and more snow.

"They're ready to get out there and do what they want to do," Helvey said. "That's ski."

The lack of snow is just fine with Ebony Toland, who moved to Alaska a year ago with her Army husband, who is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

Toland is originally from Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, and was excited when she experienced her first Alaska snowfall last year. But she said the novelty wore off after subsequent storms.

Toland said she has no desire to build another snowman, and doesn't relish the thought of shoveling snow or keeping it out of her shoes.

"I think it looks prettier if it just stays in the mountains in the distance," said Toland, an attorney practicing as a paralegal until she takes the state bar exam in February.

"If it just stayed there, it'd be great."


Follow Rachel D'Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro .


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